– THIRST REVIEW – 

I was happy to have found the author’s article on “Sense of Place” because from the time I met Geologist Alex Graham, I found myself reminiscent of a favorite series of mine by Nevada Barr, with Anna Pigeon, a park ranger, who spent most of her professional life outdoors and getting into action-packed situations! By the time I’d finished the book, I was hoping that this was the beginning of a series as well. Alex Graham is edgy, tough, courageous, but also a concerned woman who has found her life in an on-the-edge balance of obeying the law and keeping the secrecy needed to do her job…
Alex Graham Knew when to be afraid…
It was going a little over the edge when she first faced danger. There had been several bombings of dams along the Columbia River and a combined military force from Canada and the U.S. had invaded the area…a perimeter along the river and dams had been established–Alex had chosen to camp within that perimeter. Her tent had been set on fire!
 
Alex was seriously burned on her arms but was able to get out of her tent, take what she could, and get to the hospital for treatment. She met Eric Keenan who was the ER doctor that night and had hedged about where she had been and that her tent had been set on fire as opposed to an accident. He didn’t quite believe her, but allowed her to leave without reporting the incident.
There’s a good reason for Alex’s need for secrecy. She has been offered the first right of purchase of a series of mine rights from the widow of a friend who had just died. But she had a deadline.  Given the routine prospector activities in the area, Alex could not afford to be followed, but she also felt she had to inspect the involved mines since the price was very high… Still, she really needed to know who and why she had been targeted, since it obviously was not the police who would have just arrested her for entering the perimeter…

It was Eric Keenan who pulled her further into what was happening there… Dr. Keenan had treated a woman in the ER and sent her home. She returned days later displaying unusual symptoms that he began to worry about. When he began to think it was poisoning, he had started working on another patient with the same symptoms. His first patient died, but he’d gone with his assumptions and given an antidote to the second. Should he report this potential community-wide danger? His boss decided for him, saying not until the diagnosis had been proven to be correct. He needed water samples and anything else that could be dangerous from the first victim’s home. Thinking of Alex’s skills, he contacted her. She found it alright.

Eric is called away as another bomb exploded and destroyed a building right in town. While Alex, on calling into her home office was told that there would be more help sent out right away… She decided that was really a good idea, but when they arrived, she immediately felt personally responsible for their safety, given what was happening…

She had a right to be concerned because on a first trip out to work, they discovered a backpack, an earring, and blood on rocks in a nearby stream… Deciding they’d better check it out further (they’d heard a gunshot while still in camp earlier), they soon had found a body, obviously taken into a mine from the scene at the creek side… Only thing is that RCMP officer who arrived didn’t really want to listen to their theories… But after they left, one of the men became very ill…

The variety of the action found in this book is not easily followed for purposes of trying to determine who is at fault…why was one woman apparently murdered by poison? While another seemed to merely have been at the wrong place at the wrong time, while our main character was simply camping in a spot where she admittedly shouldn’t have been…but why was she almost killed by a fire for being there?
Then there is the bombings, which in a past one, was done by teenagers, but all of them? And where would they get the actual bombs being used? Why were they targeting dams?
Packed full of actions that keeps readers on their toes. This is not a traditional mystery, except confirming the answer of “why?” to each event. But that doesn’t keep readers from being totally caught up when the multiple events keep happening…
Foolishly, somebody had made a big mistake in trying to set Alex Graham on fire. For once she was pulled in again and again, she became the pivotal person around which each of the activities began to merge into a viable conclusion. Whew! I was caught turning page after page into the late hours of the night to finish this quite satisfying novel by a new fiction writer…
The author has added a final note to provide the specifics of the historical reality regarding the Columbia River Treaty and all other facets included in the book. Small issues such as the desire to change the treaty to allow salmon their natural runs, as well as the concerns of Native Americans, were effectively slid into the story to make it a comprehensive, thoughtful look at this neighbor-to-neighbor relationship with Canada. For many of us, an important topic considered smack in the middle of a fantastic thriller… A unique experience that can be savored, while looking forward to the next alex graham novel… Highly recommended.

 

Glenda Bixler

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